Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The Sky Is Falling!

The Brewers are allowed to lose a game once in a while.

You might not have thought that after Tuesday night’s loss to the hated St. Louis Cardinals, who now trail the Brewers by a scant 9 ½ games in the NL-Central with a whopping 26 left to play.

Yes, there were some missed opportunities, but that’s part of baseball.

Back to back errors in the fifth inning by Prince Fielder and Jerry Hairston opened the door for the only two runs St. Louis would score off of Brewers starter Shaun Marcum (11-5), who deserved a better fate. St. Louis righthander Edwin Jackson showed why he was such an important deadline addition for the Cardinals, scattering six hits and surrendering just one earned run over seven innings.

Aside from the defensive meltdown in the fifth inning, there were questions as to why the Brewers bunted Yuniesky Betancourt with no outs and runners at first and second in the bottom of the ninth. Betancourt has yet to successfully sacrifice this season, and Albert Pujols and Daniel Descalso were pinching in halfway up the first and third base lines, respectively. It was a play that had no chance to be successful, especially considering the less than fleet-of-foot Prince Felder was on second base at the time.

One of two things should have happened: Either Craig Counsell should have pinch hit the bunt or Betancourt should have been allowed to swing away with the corners cheating up the line 50 feet.

The other area of fan unhappiness seems to be that rookie Taylor Green has yet to be used. Tuesday night, some fans were clamoring for the talented-but unproven third baseman to make his major league debut in the ninth inning instead of Mark Kotsay.

First of all, Kotsay has a pair of walk-off hits in the last two months, and has ten overall for his career. He has been one of the best clutch players off the bench for the Brewers this season, and he has been through countless major league pressure situations.

Taylor Green has never had a major league at-bat.

The problem is that Kotsay hit into a double play, bringing out from behind the bushes the naysayers who think they can manage a baseball team better than the guy that is in the dugout. While I think it is legitimate to question strategy and even player substitutions, the notion that Ron Roenicke somehow lost this game for the Brewers is absurd.

The Brewers are now 81-55, which is the fourth-best record in all of baseball. With a 9 ½ game lead, they are virtually assured of making the playoffs, and will win their first division title in 29 years. There are 26 games left, and the Brewers certainly will lose some of them.

It is Brewers fans’ nature to be pessimistic. This a team afterall that has a history of wilting in September. It is understandable that some are not yet convinced that the Brewers will see October. Even in 2008, with a 4 ½ game lead over the Mets in the wild card on September 1, the Brewers bats went ice cold. Over the next two and a half weeks, they lost 13 of 17 games, fired manager Ned Yost, and fell behind New York in the wild card race.

Of course after that September swoon, the Brewers got back in front of the Mets on the season’s final day, the collective 26 years of postseason failure exploding in a euphoric champagne soaking of everyone that stuck around at Miller Park.

This year, things are different. The Brewers have been the best team in baseball since the All Star Break. They hold an insurmountable lead over a team that has horrifically underachieved in the last three seasons. The Brewers are on pace to win 96 games this season, which would be a franchise record. Prince Fielder and Ryan Braun are both legitimate MVP candidates. Ron Roenicke is one of the two leading candidates for Manager of the Year (Arizona’s Kirk Gibson is the other).

While one game made the difference in 2008, this will not be the case in 2011. If the Brewers do win 96 games, as they are on pace to do, that means they still will lose 11 more times. I know it is agonizing considering the Brewers history, but the team that Doug Melvin and his remarkable staff have put together is the real deal. One game lost, even to St. Louis, is not going to make or break this season. Not at this stage of the year.

Remember: This is supposed to be fun.

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